Johannesburg - South African maize and citrus farmers are
setting their sights on Asia as they grapple with increasing competition in
Africa and falling demand in Europe.
With promises of booming demand in the East and low shipping
costs, South African farmers are vigorously courting Asian buyers, focusing on
“We have met with some Chinese buyers. They are already in
South Africa looking at opportunities to buy South African maize," Grain SA
chief executive Jannie de Villiers said.
China’s 2012/13 corn (maize) imports are forecast at 7
million tonnes, a US Department of Agriculture June supply-demand report
South Africa's grain trade is market-driven and producers
face few government restrictions. The government’s May forecast for the 2012
crop was 11.056 million tonnes, against a 10.36 million tonnes harvest in 2011.
Traditionally South African maize farmers have exported
surpluses to destinations within Africa, mainly to neighbouring countries,
while fresh fruit producers have cultivated close ties with buyers in Europe.
However, a series of bumper maize harvests in Zambia and
Malawi have trimmed South Africa’s market share in the region.
has been that some African countries remain wary of genetically modified crops,
which account for most of South Africa’s maize production.
“It is not a question of moving away from the traditional
markets, but securing more alternative markets,” Piet Faure, a soft commodities
analyst at CJS Securities, said.
Asian markets are attractive because of their proximity to
South African ports and the reduced delivery times compared with the European
Union, United States and South America, Faure said.
In the past year, Africa’s largest maize producer has sold
to countries such as South Korea, Kuwait, Japan, Iran and Taiwan after a
vigorous marketing campaign in Asian markets.
"The trade balance in the East is beginning to favour South
Africa," Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said.
Citrus producers, too, are looking to Asia amid concerns
of slowing demand in Europe as the
region’s debt woes rumble on.
South Africa is the world’s second-largest citrus supplier
after Spain, exporting 2.5 million tonnes of fresh fruit annually, of which
about 70% is destined for Europe.
The National Agricultural Marketing Council and the department of agriculture have now identified China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan,
Singapore and Malaysia as attractive new markets for South Africa, a report in
The report added that though Europe remains a vital
outlet, increasing output in southern hemisphere countries, rising export costs
and stagnating consumption in the EU posed challenges to citrus producers.
The producers have indicated that they would be comfortable
in the long term with shipping only 40% to 50% of fruit export volumes into
South Africa announced recently that it has started
exporting fresh fruit to Thailand after 14 years of talks between the